An article published in the New York Times yesterday states that limited fracking will now be allowed in Virginia’s George Washington National Forest (which is within the Chesapeake Bay watershed). 90% of the forest will be closed to fracking, but natural gas extraction will be allowed on privately owned land, and on 10,000 acres which are currently leased for energy development.
Both environmentalists and the gas industry are claiming victories on this decision.
Coming off of my post last Friday on fracking in Easter Virginia, I found this article from the Washington Post. One of the major suppliers to oil and gas companies will begin to list all of the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracking process. Many chemicals have previously been undisclosed by the oil and gas industry. If companies are more transparent about the chemicals being used in extracting natural gas, groups can test for these chemicals in watersheds, and potentially create new regulations for hydraulic fracking. As fracking is a possibility in the near future in the Chesapeake Bay region, (a degree of) transparency in the oil and gas industry will be necessary to protect water quality.
I’ve read a couple pieces this week about the possibility of natural gas drilling in Eastern Virginia in the near future. A Texas company that leases oil and gas rights has acquired 84,000 acres in the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula, in the counties of Caroline, Essex, King George, King and Queen, and Westmoreland. The plans for oil drilling are not clear on the hydraulic fracking methods that will be used to extract the natural gas, according to a piece this week in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Fracking has been a major concern for water quality in the nearby states of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio; chemicals from the extraction process can enter drinking water supplies, and impact human health.
An editorial from the Virginian-Pilot, a newspaper out of Hampton Roads says fracking for natural gas could occur in the region in a years time. The natural gas in question lies in a shale formation called the Taylorsville Basin. Aquifers above the basin lie in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and support over 900,000 people in the area. Although natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel than other fossil fuel sources, the extraction process, as it exists today, can have negative impacts on water supplies, and could be a great risk to the health of the Chesapeake Bay, and to local residents, if fracking occurs as planned.
(Image from news.fredericksburg.com).
Related: To read more about the fracking process: EPA’s Study of Hydraulic Fracturing and It’s Potential Impact on Drinking Water Resources